Nunavut hunters still waiting for final bowhead quota decision
Fisheries minister raised Baffin quota last year; no decision yet for Kivalliq
Kivalliq hunters are still awaiting a decision from the federal fisheries minister on whether they will be able to harvest two bowhead whales this year, an increase from the current quota of one.
But the executive director of the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board, Jason Akearok, said Jan. 9 that a final decision should be made before the open-water hunting season begins.
“Slightly before the hunting season we should have a decision in place,” Akearok said.
“But I can’t say for sure what will happen.”
The Kivalliq Wildlife Board submitted its request for an additional bowhead whale to the NWMB in April 2014 on the heels of an identical request from the Baffin region’s wildlife board — a request which was ultimately granted.
Until then, Nunavut’s bowhead quota was three bowhead whales — one for each region.
The NWMB told Nunatsiaq News in October 2014 that it had made its decision on the Kivalliq request and recently submitted that decision to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
According to the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, the federal minister has 60 days either to approve the decision or to submit written reasons for rejecting it.
Those 60 days expired in December, but neither the DFO nor Akearok could explain why the final decision has not been released.
“Once the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board makes a decision and forwards that on to the Minister, the process becomes confidential,” a spokesperson for the DFO wrote in an email to Nunatsiaq News Jan. 9.
The fisheries minister can go beyond the 60-day limit if the NWMB agrees to an extension, but that information is also confidential, the DFO spokesperson explained on the phone.
In their submission, the KWB said it granted its 2014 quota to Chesterfield Inlet and hoped to allow Coral Harbour a bowhead too.
“It would greatly benefit the Kivalliq region, and the muktuk from the bowhead(s) would be distributed amongst the communities to ensure all beneficiaries carry on the traditional diet of consuming bowhead muktuk, which is now considered a rare delicacy,” reads the submission.
In its submission to the NWMB, the Qikiqtaaluk Wildlife Board wrote that the Baffin region has built up its capacity and expertise to handle a second annual whale harvest.
“In increasing the number of hunts in this region, we are working to develop, and diversify, the experience,” said James Qillaq, who signed the Baffin submission as chair of the Qikiqtaaluk board.
The bowhead whale is divided into several populations in Canada. The Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort population in the western Arctic is listed as a “species of special concern” by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. The Eastern Canada-Western Greenland population is estimated to comprise about 6,000 animals, according to the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
With files from Sarah Rogers